tv [untitled] March 6, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PST
>> this morning, everyone, and welcome to the 2010 s justice some of. there must be justice. i want to begin -- to the 2010 justice summit. there must be justice. i want to begin by welcoming you. i am a public defender here in san francisco, and i will be overseeing the first part of the program today. we are going to be talking about something is called ordinary in justice. if you look if the word, it says, an unjust act, and within the criminal justice system, there are a lot of fun just as if that occur. we just do not hear about them. -- a lot of unjust acts that
occur. we have probably all heard there have been 150 human beings who have been exonerated after being sent to death row. that means 150 people in this country were tried and convicted and sentenced to death and then exonerated face on mostly scientific evidence. some served years. some serve a eighth. we hear about those stories. what we do not often hear about is how the justice system was wrong in other ways that affect everyday people throughout this country, and that is what we are going to be talking about today. we are talking about failures, like of when when a person is wy tried because they have a name -- wrongly accused because they
have a name similar to someone else. we try about 250 cases a year, and in about half of those cases, there are acquittals, and what that means is a series agree about half the time -- juries agree about half the time with our assessment of the case. we know about the failures we have heard about in san francisco of late, including a technician in the police department crime lab, who was stealing drugs from the lab. we do not know for what time, but there are grams of cocaine that are missing from evidence common and that opened -- from evidence, and that opened and
pandora's box. that is shocking that an individual could do that, but probably the more outrageous factor is that it went on for as long as it did and nobody acted on it, and then just recently, we heard there were as many as 130 police officers who have either criminal convictions or misconduct records that are not being disclosed by the district attorney in san francisco, and that is the obligation they have under the law. how could this happen? who is affected by this? the media often portrays it as criminals walking free, but we do have the presumption of innocence in this country, and the question we should be asking is how do these unjust acts affect everyday persons.
you might think, i will never have any contact with this. what does it matter? whether you are a juror, a witness, a victim, or god forbid you find yourself as the accused in a criminal case, you want to make sure there is a system in place that has integrity, that has professionalism, and this is not to say that in san francisco we do not do a great job of creating just outcomes, but these are huge problems, and they raise even greater questions. role of the public defender is the role that is often not known. the public defender has the responsibility of defending the public, whether we enforce the bill of rights, whether we insure the constitution,
including the right to effective counsel, are kept, whether it is making sure the individual is protected against the machinery of the government now, and the power of the government, the public defender has the role of ensuring accountability in our system. it is a difficult role because we have not been given the resources we need to do that job. from the early days, the public defender's office as well as conflicts council, assigned to rept represent people in cases has not received the resources that we need in order to do our jobs properly. so we're going to talk about those failings as well. so we have a great panel.
i'm so exciteded to introduce and give you an overview of what's going to happen today. we have speakers from all over the country and we're going to talk about injustice and how in their experience it affects every day people. and our second panel is going to talk about the need to remake the image of a public defender. you always think public pretender or dump truck. right? part of that is the way in which public defenders are presented. i remember that scene from -- and how a public defender was portrayed in that film but we're going to talk about how public defenders and defense attorneys are portrayed with you but more importantly how it affects our
ability to get fair trials for clients and we're also going to talk about what to do about it. today you'll be the first one to see it, a professionally produced public service announcement about why it is important that we do what we do and that's going to be during the second panel. the third panel, which will be after lunch, will talk about the obstacles to a person clearing their criminal history. it is called an exspungment. and there is laws that determine when a person can clear the record but there is there are tremendous obstacles in the way for a person. for example, if you have been convicted and sent to state prison, there is a seven-year waiting period before you can fight to have your record expunged through a pardon process. our third panel will be talking
about that issue. so we've got a great program for you today. and i know you're going to enjoy it. i'm now going to introduce two speakers. two great leaders who are the heads of two of the most progressive legal organizations in california. the first is arturo gonzalez, the president of the bar association of san francisco. arturo is one of the top trial lawyers in the nation and he's a partner at morrison forester. we've had the pleasure of working with the bar association for -- over the past 20 years to provide services to people who can't afford lawyers when the public defender is not available and so we're very pleased to have arturo here on behalf of the bar association.
thank you. [applause] >> thank you. three days ago in one of the most closely watched supreme court cases this term, graham versus florida, the united states superior court forbid the sentences of a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a non-homicide crime. they found such a sentence is consistent with basic principles of decency. i'm proud to say that my firm was co-counsel for the juvenile in this case and wrote the brief for the juvenile in the court. this decision gives our clients, terrance graham, who had
received the sentence of life without the possibility of parole. the bad acts he committed as a teenager are not representative of his true character and gives him some realistic opportunity to gain release before the end of his term. i personally understand the importance of the work that you do. but our nation's fiscal crisis threatens your very existence. as predicted 25 years ago by chief justice rose berg , she said the following. we have no difficulty, it seems finding sufficient funds to build more prisons. one of california's largest industries. but each year, public defenders and private providers of quality defense battle for every dollar needed to protect this constitutional right.
the bar association of san francisco is committed to partnerering with, not competing with our public defenders. san francisco fortunate to have a strong public defender and a bar system committed to quality representation for the poor. to best guarantee quality indigent defense, our partnership with the public defender and bar association is essential. they are each other's complements. the sum of the part that makes the whole of criminal defense work so well in san francisco. a challenge for our profession will be to ensure that cities and counties fighting seemingly endless budget deficits do not fall prey to the burgeoning business offered through websites of contract services for criminal defense. our constitution mandates that
people accused of crimes be represented by comp at the present time council. not the last expensive council. on a separate note, a word about arizona bill 1070. many years ago when jewish persons were told to wear yellow stars, lawyers sat silent. we know what that led to. and even then, lawyers sat silent. we must never again allow ourselves to go silent when laws are passed that threaten the basic liberties of any person or people. today the board of directors at the bar association of san francisco will consider a resolution that i drafted to boycott the state of arizona. we will encourage our members, member firms and other firms throughout this state and the country to boycott arizona.
there are other places to do business, to hold conventions or to spend vacations. in closing, it is important that we come together today to make our commitment known and public. that the bar association of san francisco stands shoulder to shoulder with our public defender and california attorneys for criminal justice. we will hold our lawmakers accountable. if they fail to properly fund those agencies responsible for defending those accused of crimes. and we will not sit silent when politicians pass and sign draconian new laws. we are lawyers. we are proud to be lawyers. we will fight for our clients and to defend our constitution. thank you. [applause]
>> thank you very much, arturo. our next speaker is jose verala. i'm very pleased to announce that he was just sworn in as a public defender. he is also the newly sworn in and elected president to have california public defender's association which is the largest statewide, about 4,000 members. jose? [applause] >> thank you very much. on behalf of the over 4,000 members over the california public defenders office i want to thank you for being here. it is an honor to see so many people here whose lives are dedicated to making the lives of other people better. at the california public defender's office, it is a 40-year old organization that has grown from a small unit into
now one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the country. we fight for justice in legislative committees and we fight for justice in making sure that attorneys are trained well and have the competencey to deliver the kind of services that people who don't have the ability to afford council have council that are as prepared as anyone else. it is with great pride that we see our young attorneys being able to come into court and have the courage, the incidence separation and the ability to be able to deliver results that money can't buy and that's the wonderful, wonderful thing about it. people become public defenders, i think, because they were raised on the mother's moifling three words by two leaders. i believe we were raised by the three words we shall overcome. i believe we were raised by the three words seize that weather. that we as human beings can help
other human beings make their circumstances better, depend themselves and maintain human dignity in the face of onslaughts that come from every angle. we are blessed to do this work. we should never be ashamed to be public defenders. we should always be proud of what it is that we do for people and in fact, what they return to us. we are made better by the work that we do and may god bless all of your efforts. thank you. [applause] >> thank you, jose. the event today is also sponsored by the california attorneys for criminal justice. i also want to especially thank the rosenberg foundation and executive director tim solard who provided a grant to make this possible so thank you so much the rosenberg foundation and of course i want to thank all the volunteers who worked so
hard to make this event happen today. now i'm very excited to introduce our keynote speaker. our keynote speaker is and was the first "lady lawyer" in california. it's true. because when she decided that she wanted to become a lawyer, there was one problem, the law in california didn't allow it. and so she had to change the law, which she did. she also wanted to go to law school right here at hastings college of law but they had a policy that said only men could go do that law school so she sued hastings college of the law and she changed that and she was the first woman to attend hastings law school. and when she got out of law school, there were no jobs.
no jobs. because no one would hire women. so what did she do? she became a criminal defense attorney because that was the one place where it didn't matter and she fought harder than a man and that was good enough for her clients and she became one of the top criminal defense attorneys and she practiced right here in san francisco. she also began advocating to change laws. so she changed the law that used to be that in criminal trials throughout the trial you were shackled. you were actually shackled and she was one that changed that law here in san francisco and it later spread throughout the state. she was the first to call for a parole system out of the state prison, our state prisons. she was the first to change the law so that juveniles or young people were not houses with